Canadians support professor’s use of offensive language, in context: poll

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OTTAWA — A new survey suggests Canadians are broadly supportive of freedom of speech on university campuses, at all costs.

The poll comes as debate continues over a case at the University of Ottawa involving a professor who used a racist word as part of a class discussion on how some communities had reclaimed terms.

The professor was later suspended and has apologized but the issue continues to be debated in the public sphere.

The survey from Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found 75 per cent of respondents agreed that freedom of expression at universities must be protected to allow for the exchange of ideas, including the use of certain culturally insensitive words if meant to stimulate discussion.

Fifty-seven per cent of those surveyed supported a professor using those words in the appropriate context, while 26 per cent were supportive of the students who had protested the fact the word was used.

The survey of 1,523 Canadians was carried out online between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not totally random.